October 14, 2022 at 7:11 p.m.

Friday night lights before Saturday morning chores

Bortle balances football while farming
The Bortle family – Huck (front, from left) and Hollis; (back) Tyler and Callie, holding Hacher – stand on their farm Sept. 14 near Whitehall, Wisconsin. The Bortles milk 50 cows, and Tyler coaches high school football.  PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER
The Bortle family – Huck (front, from left) and Hollis; (back) Tyler and Callie, holding Hacher – stand on their farm Sept. 14 near Whitehall, Wisconsin. The Bortles milk 50 cows, and Tyler coaches high school football. PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER

By Abby [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

WHITEHALL, Wis. – Football has been Tyler Bortle’s hobby ever since he joined the team in sixth grade. That hobby led to a college and semi-professional football career. Now, years later, Bortle is staying involved in the sport through coaching high school football.
“I enjoy the game of football and everything it has to offer,” Bortle said. “I like to see the way the kids develop and grow.”
Bortle and his dad, John, milk 50 cows in a swing-6 parlor near Whitehall. Bortle handles the milking while John mixes feed and feeds the cows. Along with cooking a team meal every Thursday, Bortle’s wife, Callie, stays home with their three children and does calf chores and picks up the slack when Bortle’s coaching duties call. John fills in for milking as well and also serves as an assistant in the booth at football games.
Every week is a balancing act between running the farm and keeping up with coaching duties. On Mondays, the team watches film of the previous Friday’s game and does stretching and conditioning workouts. On Tuesdays, the team wears full pads and analyzes the next opponent. Bortle plays quarterback on the scout offensive team. The rest of the week is spent getting ready for the Friday night game.
“We work hard all week,” Bortle said. “And then Friday night comes, and we play hard and sacrifice for each other and grow as a team. I enjoy that.”
Bortle said the sport has been even more enjoyable throughout his life with the support of his dad, who always encouraged him to try sports. John made it to every game and managed to keep the farm running. When Bortle was in high school and the team had away games, John hired someone to milk the cows. John was paid to drive the team’s bus to the games.
“He did a lot of work by himself, but he always made the games,” Bortle said. “He always joked that he got paid to watch me play and still had a little to pay the milker.”
Bortle attended college at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse so he could continue to play football. John continued to attend games. The first time the team traveled to Texas, Bortle was of the understanding that John would not be able to attend the game because it was so far away.
“I remember getting off the bus to go to the game and turning around in the parking lot and there he was standing,” Bortle said. “That was pretty cool.”
After college, the career turned semi-professional when Bortle played for the Chippewa Valley Predators for many years. He also spent a couple years playing for the Minneapolis Warriors, with teammates who had previously been involved in the National Football League. Along with defeating some previous league champions, the team was also invited to Daytona to play in the national title game. They ended up being crowned in 2021 as the best in the nation.
“That was interesting getting to meet a lot of different guys with a lot of backgrounds,” Bortle said.
When he returned home, he knew he wanted to keep football in his life but was also taking a more active role in the dairy. When his alma mater had a position for a coaching job, Bortle saw his opportunity.
“They brought me in and said, ‘We want you to come in and do this,’” Bortle said. “I was shocked.”
Bortle consulted with his dad before accepting the position. John assured Bortle they would make it work between chores and fieldwork so Bortle could coach.
Bortle said coaching can be like farming where things do not always go as planned. He uses the trials as a teaching opportunity for the kids to become more flexible.
“It’s organized chaos kind of like farming,” Bortle said. “I always tell the guys if something goes wrong that we’re going to tighten our belts up and we’re going to move on.”
Bortle said his favorite thing is showing up to practice and seeing the kids wide-eyed and eager. He encourages the team to be respectful of each other and practice kindness.
“I always tell them I have expectations of all of them, but the No. 1 things are effort and just being a good human being,” Bortle said. “Just don’t be mean to each other. That doesn’t take a lot.”
While there is a lot that goes into making the balancing act work, Bortle said he enjoys coaching and farming with the support of his parents and his wife.
“Sports don’t build character; it reveals it,” Bortle said.


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